For some, it's hard to understand the life of a cowgirl. But, for others, it is part of who they are. Living legend Martha Josey was born to be a cowgirl, building a career in the Rodeo Industry as a World Champion Barrel Racer and Clinician. Adding to her accolades this November Josey will receive the prestigious Tad Lucas Award presented at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma, City.
Barbara Inez “Tad” Lucas, a trick riding legend, left her mark on the rodeo industry competing as a trick rider winning many world championships through international competition. She competed with spirit, courage, and compassion from her teens until her 60s leaving her career revered by women in the western industry across the world.
In an effort to recognize women performers who have noteworthy achievements in the sport of rodeo, Tad Lucas’s family chooses a recipient of the coveted award each year to be presented during a western recognition ceremony at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum.
The recipient is chosen out of a pool of qualified nominees who have created a career based on the same principles Tad Lucas represented in her competitive days and throughout her life.
Tad Lucas immortalized the world of the cowgirl not only through her ability as a trick rider and rodeo competitor but through her timeless characteristics that made her a role model.
Starting as a child helping her family train horses Tad had a draw to the Rodeo Industry. It wasn't until she saw trick riding at a rodeo in Fort Worth in 1921 that she knew exactly where she wanted to be.
By 1923 Tad Lucas was a full-time professional cowgirl touring the United States and Mexico performing in Wild West Shows trick riding and riding broncs.
Tad won virtually every possible prize offered to women in rodeo competing in trick riding, bronc riding, and relay racing from the mid-1920s through 1942. Lucas pioneered the riding trick of crawling under the belly of a galloping horse and coming up on the other side into the saddle.
Martha's beginning is shockingly similar as they both grew up in families with connections to horses. Martha’s father was one of the first directors of the American Quarter Horse Association bringing some of the first Quarter Horses to East Texas. Sadly, Martha’s father passed away due to a heart attack when Martha was only ten. Following her father's untimely death, Martha’s mother had to sell all the horses but kept one with the hopes that Martha might want to ride one day.
Through school, Martha played Basketball developing excellent hand-eye coordination and learning she had a strong burning desire to be the best at what she did. As a high school senior Martha went to a rodeo in Shreveport, Louisiana with some friends and became infatuated with the barrel racers. As she sat in the stands watching she decided she didn't belong there, she belonged down in the arena.
That night Martha went home, grabbed her father's old roping saddle, and Jim Bo, the horse her mother had kept, and that night she became a barrel racer.
Martha continued on with her immortal gelding Cebe Reed, her first champion that won 52 barrel races in a row and seven horse trailers. In the 1960s Martha competed as an all-around cowgirl riding broncs, roping, goat tying, and riding bulls. Following Cebe Reed Martha and her second great horse, Sonny Bit O’ Both won the 1980 Women's Professional Rodeo Association (WPRA) and American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) World Championships in the same year, a feat that has yet to be matched. She went on to complete 11 NFR qualifications and represented the United States of America in the 1986 Calgary, Canada Olympic games coming home with an Individual Bronze Medal and team Gold Medal.
(Martha Josey Riding a Bull attempting to win the All Around Cowgirl Trailer)
Tad married a cowboy who became a world champion and they were instrumental in developing rodeo thru their clinics in the sport.
Martha wed R. E. Josey a three-time world champion calf roper where they together established the Josey Ranch in 1967 and have trained well over 300,000 future rodeo enthusiasts in their barrel racing and calf roping schools/clinics. In addition, they have partnered with companies to perfect equipment that makes better and safer performers.
Tad had to perform with a severely fractured arm for three years and Martha has overcome five accidents, a couple predicting to end her riding career. Yet, both of these women overcame the odds and continued doing what they loved.
As both Lucas and Josey continued with their careers it is evident the contributions both these women have made to the industry have had great impacts, showing determination, class, and character that have greatly influenced cowgirls of future generations.
While Tad had the skills, talent, and determination to make her a legend in the sport of rodeo, those who knew her said it was her heart that they remember the most. She loved cowboys and rodeo but she loved people in a way that there was never a doubt she would not be there for them. She continued to exemplify this unselfish manner by asking her family to recognize and honor those following her who contributed to the life she loved.
Martha has this same gift and truly believes that investing in people will bring you uninhibited joy. From childhood to today, she uses the gifts she has and the heart God gave her to make other people’s dreams become a reality.
(Martha Josey today running the Josey Ranch as the Longest Running Rodeo School in the World)
“I am incredibly grateful to have been nominated and chosen to receive the Tad Lucas Award,” said Martha Josey. “She was an incredible woman who contributed so much to rodeo. I am honored to be in a position where I can help promote our sport and help the industry grow just as Tad Lucas did.”